RSF asks India to provide protection to journalists » Kashmir Media Service

Srinagar, May 01 (KMS): The Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders of Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), has urged the Indian authorities to provide journalists with better protection after three attacks on reporters in the northeastern state of Assam.

Three reporters were attacked in Assam in the space of 48 hours last week. One reporter was assaulted by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists for victim’s coverage of ongoing Indian general elections.

The RSF in a statement posted on its website said that Rajen Deka, a reporter for Dainik Asom, one of Assam’s leading dailies, was returning to his home in Nalbari district on the evening of 25 April when he was ambushed and attacked with sharp weapons by individuals linked to India’s ruling BJP, with the result that he had to be hospitalized with injuries to the head, chest and arm.

“We call on Assam’s highest authorities, starting with Chief Minister Sarbanada Sonowal, a leading BJP member, to do everything possible to ensure that an independent investigation identifies those responsible for this attack,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Any connivance by the security forces with those who want to prevent reporters from covering the elections would be intolerable. Urgent measures must also be taken to guarantee the safety of journalists, especially during the elections, when the role of the media is absolutely essential,” he said.

On the same evening as the attack on Deka, News18 TV reporter Upasana Barua Goswami was the target of violence by four individuals in a restaurant in Tinsukia district, in northeastern Assam. Her assailants were arrested but the motive for the attack has not yet been established. Rajiv Borah, a journalist who runs E-media and works for the regional TV channel DY365, was attacked and beaten by five individuals two days later in Jorhat, a city 180-km southwest of Tinsukia. Only one of his assailants was arrested and, in this case as well, the police failed to identify the attack’s motive.

RSF said Assam’s journalists have been subjected to growing harassment for months, especially those covering the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which would make it harder for Muslims to acquire citizenship. Two weeks ago, the home affairs ministry ordered Assam’s government to “take necessary action against” a newspaper, a news site and three regional TV channels that had dared to cover protests against the proposed legislation. The federal government directive followed a complaint by an organization affiliated to Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary group that supports the BJP. Four journalists – Nitumoni Saikia of the daily Asomiya Pratidin, Manjit Mahanta of the Inside NE website, Ajit Bhuyan of Pratidin Time TVand Afrida Hussain of Prag News TV – were named in the directive.

It is to mention here that India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, two places lower than in 2018.

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